Restrictive/Non-restrictive banter continues!

Subject: Restrictive/Non-restrictive banter continues!
From: Karen_Mayer -dot- TOUCH_TECHNOLOGY -at- NOTES -dot- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 8 Feb 1996 16:47:32 EST

-------------------- ORIGINAL MESSAGE TEXT --------------------
Karen_Mayer -dot- TOUCH_TECHNOLOGY -at- notes -dot- compuserve -dot- com wrote:

> Ah, but is it? "Which" can be correctly used in non-restrictive AND
> restrictive clauses (vs. "that," which is used only in restrictive

Since when?

> clauses). Inserting a comma changes the implied meaning of the sentences.
> Take for example:

> The lawnmower which is in the garage is broken.
> (There's more than one lawnmower, and it's the one in the garage that
> we're talking about.)
> The lawnmower that is in the garage is broken.
> (Same meaning as the above example)
> The lawnmower, which is in the garage, is broken.
> (There may or may not be other lawnmowers. The fact that the broken
> one is in the garage is simply extra information -- the main point is
> that the lawnmower is broken.)

I see you've been reading Strunk and White, who use lawnmower examples
as well. However, it seems you've added a sentence to bolster your case.
My copy of S&W (Third edition, 1979) doesn't have your first example.
Have Messrs. Strunk and White risen from the dead to revise their
original position on this issue?

Even if I'm mistaken about your source of information, the use of commas
is irrelevant. It's a pronoun issue (which vs. that), not a punctuation
issue. Both the first and third sentences mean precisely the same thing.


-------------------- END OF ORIGINAL MESSAGE --------------------

Your grammar reference might support your position, but mine does not.
I'm looking at the Prentice Hall Reference Guide to Grammar and Usage
(pages 55-56), which states in its section on essential and non-essential
phrases (also called restrictive and non-restrictive) that

" Nonessential clauses and phrases are set off by a pair of commas when
they appear within a sentence. Only one comma is needed when they appear
at the end of a sentence."

It goes on to give some examples to illustrate the change in meaning that
the commas provide:

"The bank offered loans to the farmers, who were going to plant soybeans.
(This sentence states that all farmers received loans.)
"The bank offered loans to the farmers who were going to plant soybeans.
(This sentence states that the bank offered loans only to the farmers
planting soybeans, not to those planting other crops.)

This particular grammar book specifically states: "Essential clauses and
phrases are not set off by commas" and "Clauses starting with *that* are
almost always essential."

Granted, this section of this grammar book does not address the word
"which" specifically, but I also saw this explanation *using the word
"which"* in another grammar book I used while I was teaching English
overseas. (I was asked this question by my students quite frequently!)

-- Karen

P.S. I might have gotten the lawnmower example from S&W, but it was so
long ago that I last read it, it must really have stuck with me!

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